POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - Jack Bruckner is closing out his senior season in style. A style befitting his college choice of Duke, the recently crowned NCAA champion.
Bruckner helped put Ward Melville in a position to mirror what the Blue Devils did on the state level, scoring five goals with two assists Wednesday night to lead the Patriots past Shenendehowa, 13-6, in the state Class A semifinal game at Marist College.
"It was all business," Bruckner said. "Pass, shoot and score. That's our offense."
Bruckner had plenty of help as the Patriots (21-0) reaffirmed their status as the nation's No. 1-ranked team and earned a place in Saturday's state championship game against perennial power West Genesee at St. John's Fisher College.
Sophomore Danny Bucaro had three goals and an assist. Senior Brendan Hegarty, headed to Massachusetts, had three goals and senior Christian Mazzone, who will attend Rutgers, had two goals.
The victory continued a run of firsts for coach Mike Hoppey and this group of players. Ward Melville will be making its first visit to the state final since it defeated Mahopac in the 2000 semifinals, and is looking for its first state title since that same year. The Patriots also won their first Suffolk and Long Island titles under Hoppey, who replaced Hall of Famer Joe Cuozzo in 2006. Under Cuozzo, the Patriots won seven state titles.
Shenendehowa (18-4) ran with Ward Melville early, actually trading goals and forging a tie at 4 after the first quarter.
"We were in a little slump, then coach Hoppey gave us an earful and said, 'You better pick it up. This is for the state championship.' Then we got more aggressive," Bruckner said.
Then he put his imprint on this one. He scored two goals in two minutes to break the tie, then made a slick pass to Bucaro on the doorstep to make it 7-4.
Bucaro scored from the crease with a low shovel-shot on the opening faceoff of the second half to make it 9-4. Then Hegarty, who scored the Pats' first goal, scored off a feed from Bruckner to make it six straight Ward Melville goals.
After Shenendehowa's Brian Rogers ended a 17-minute drought with his second goal, Hegarty answered 77 seconds later, converting a feed from defender Daniel Decker to make it 11-5.
Bruckner scored two more goals in the fourth quarter.
Ward Melville's Big Four on offense now features three 50-plus goal-scorers -- Bucaro (58), Bruckner (56) and Mazzone (51) -- and Hegarty has 43. It's a big reason the Patriots are poised for a big finish.